My Story as it Pertains to Watercolor

Margaret Crowley-Kiggins, FWS

Watercolor paintings always seem so fresh and clean to me. It is not a forgiving medium to work in. It requires pre-planning and light but detailed sketching without erasing. To attempt watercolor realism is relatively difficult, but if one plans and is methodical in their approach it can be done.

I started drawing when I was young like everyone else. My father painted in oils as a hobby and his favorite subject was still life. He was self-taught and would have been great if he had lived and painted beyond the age of 39. I was quite young when I witnessed his drowning and my imagination carried me off to some pretty dark places particularly at night when I would crawl into bed.

We moved far away from that place and my mom tried to start over. My dad's art supplies enabled my mom to try her hand at painting but she didn't stick to it and picked up photography instead. She built a darkroom in our laundry room and it was very exciting for us to be able to process our own film and print photographs. My dad's art materials ended up being divided between my brother and I. I took posession of the drawing supplies and my brother got the paints. I started making art as early as age 12. I drew with pencil then progressed to ink. Then pastels. When I was a teenager, I was given a set of rapidograph pens and a set of acrylic paints. I liked the pens better and received a great deal of praise for my ink drawings, mostly done by stippling (dot dot dot). At this time I was also extremely interested in music and played jazz guitar. My mother was a classical pianist and helped me afford my Japanese Martin-style guitar. Our house was musical, creative and crazy. My mom began dating and invited friends from work over for any reason at all. I wish it could have stayed that way forever, but it didn't.

I was 17 when I watched my mom die in a plane crash. She was only 44. I stopped playing guitar and started drawing with a vengeance. I didn't know what would become of my sister, my brother or myself, but while the relatives worked it out among themselves I continued to draw my sadness. Someone who was kind to me during this time was my guitar instructor and his wife who had majored in art at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. So I decided to take the same path since I really didn't know what else to do. I worked my way through school and graduated with a degree in Commercial Design. I didn't get a job in that field, so I freelanced in the area and waited tables. Or worked in a fast food restaurant, camera store, custom framing store, drug company or bike shop. I got hooked up with a now defunkt artists' cooperative gallery. I started using watercolors then because paintings brought more than drawings. Although I had used oils while in college, I didn't care much for the smell of mineral spirits, the expense of materials, nor cleaning up after a painting session. Watercolor is much more portable as I enjoyed plein air painting during that time in my life.

I moved around quite a bit after I graduated. I got a job as a flight attendant for a large airline. Watercolor once again, suited my lifestyle so I continued to hone my skills. I met this great guy, got married and had kids. Again, watercolor was easy for quick painting sessions while the kids napped. I joined some artist guilds and started showing my work. I started selling my work. It seemed that I had an affinity for watercolor portraiture and ended up with a steady stream of commissions for almost 2 decades.

I was featured in an article in American Artist Watercolor Magazine, Fall 1995. I also had a painting included in the book,The Best Of Watercolor 2, by Rockport Publishers, edited by Betty Lou Schlemm. Other publications that have featured my work are International Artist, Northlight Magazine, and Mensa Bulletin. I have been accepted into more than a hundred juried exhibitions and have won numerous awards. Currently, I am a lifetime Signature member of the Florida Watercolor Society. I still love painting in watercolor, but I am entering a new phase in my art life and feel the need to get back to some basics. I am studying and practicing classical drawing techniques and painting using egg tempera, an almost lost art form. I paint in acrylic for current commissions while I spend this time of my life deepening my knowledge and strengthening my skills.